The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) has launched a project that will help approximately 30 Canadian local governments determine how to deliver services—such as providing safe drinking water or managing floods—in a way that’s cost-effective. The project will also help communities increase their resilience to climate change.

“More and more of Canada’s approximately 3,600 local governments are undertaking natural asset management,” said Roy Brooke, executive director of MNAI. “However, the rate of uptake is not commensurate with climate change adaptation, mitigation, biodiversity and infrastructure service delivery challenges this approach can help to address.”

“Thanks to the Greenbelt funding, the Acceleration project will help address this by doubling the number of communities in Canada that are starting to understand, value, and manage natural assets as vital infrastructure on which we depend,” said Brooke.

An anonymous donor and the Greenbelt Foundation are devoting $500,000 to enable the local governments to simultaneously partner with MNAI. MNAI will work with the local governments build an inventory of their existing natural assets—such as their forests, wetlands, aquifers, and beaches.

“This opportunity comes at an exciting time,” said Steve Ogden, mayor of the Town of Stratford. “Our community is already investing in some of our natural assets, such as wellfield protection at Fullerton’s Creek Conservation Park, enhancing our urban forest, and our future waterfront park property. This opportunity will allow us to better understand the value of our natural assets and take the next steps in managing them. We look forward to working with the Municipal Natural Assets Initiative team and our fellow 30+ participating municipalities from across the country.”

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MNAI’s ongoing work with communities has shown that these natural assets can provide the same level of service as many engineered assets, often at a much lower cost to the balance sheet and to the environment. Therefore, knowing what natural assets exist in communities, what condition they’re in, and what services they provide is the critical first step for local governments to take towards full natural asset management.

“As part of the MNAI, Dufferin County will take a critical first step towards realizing the full potential of municipal natural assets, a key objective of the forthcoming Dufferin Climate Action Plan,” said Sara Wicks, climate change coordinator for Dufferin County.

“Through their protection, restoration, and enhancement, Dufferin’s natural assets will play an important role in climate change adaptation by providing essential stormwater management and purification services, sustaining soil quality, mitigating extreme heat, and supporting biodiversity,” added Wicks.

After a call-for-proposals, MNAI used a set of criteria to select local governments from across Canada of various sizes and service delivery challenges to participate. The initial list of participating local governments includes:

  1. City of Charlottetown, PEI
  2. County of Dufferin, ON
  3. Town of Florenceville-Bristol, NB
  4. City of Kelowna, BC
  5. Municipality of the District of Lunenberg, NS
  6. City of Markham, ON
  7. Regional Municipality of Niagara, ON
  8. City of Peterborough, ON
  9. City of Prince George, BC
  10. City of Surrey, BC
  11. City of West Kelowna, BC
  12. City of Abbotsford, BC
  13. Halifax Regional Municipality, NS
  14. District of Kent, BC
  15. City of Moncton, NB
  16. Corporation of the County of Northumberland, ON
  17. Corporation of the Township of Langley, BC
  18. Town of Stratford, PEI
  19. The Corporation of the City of Mississauga, ON
  20. City of Orillia, ON
  21. City of Selkirk, MB
  22. Winnipeg Metropolitan Region, MB
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“The City of Charlottetown is pleased to be partnering with MNAI to develop a Natural Assets Inventory,” said Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown. “What we gain from this partnership will help us build a foundation of good management practices, compile data we can draw from, and assist us in developing management strategies to help protect our assets as we plan for the future.”

As a final step in the project, MNAI will provide the local governments with their tailored natural asset inventory, a dashboard to support their decision making, and a roadmap on next steps they can take to increase or improve their natural asset management approaches.

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